With research being continuously done on foods and their effects on health, it’s easy to get lost in all the different advice and new findings on what’s considered healthy.
On top of that, we have health “experts” and nutritional “gurus” giving their opinions on what works and what doesn’t, many times citing their own personal experience as indication that it works universally.
While there’s nothing wrong with anecdotes and testimonials (they’re great in some cases as they add to existing scientific evidence). But personal experiences alone are not proof if something works or not.
The topic of healthy foods however, aren’t debated as much. Most point to the food pyramid as the ultimate guide on what’s healthy and what’s not.
In this article, we’ll see what foods are actually considered healthy foods, why that is, how come they may have been misunderstood, and how we can incorporate more of these into our diet.
3 Controversial Healthy Foods
The foods that I’m about to introduce are considered controversial for one reason only. They’re listed in the top 2 blocks of the food pyramid.
And as such, these foods are recommended to be avoided and at most, consume sparingly.
Various medical studies are often used to highlight the negative health effects of these food types. That’s also the very reason why these foods are controversial when it comes to health.
Those specific studies focused on only specific types of the foods or even worse, they don’t consider the effects from other foods and lifestyle practices.
These foods may come as a surprise to some of you. The fact they can be healthy might fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but there’s no shortage of evidence to back it up, both scientific and anecdotal.
So without further ado, here are the top 3 controversial healthy foods!
The first on the least is none other than meat. Red meat in particular has gotten a bad reputation for everything from heart disease to fat gain.
Those claims aren’t without merit though. With the number of correlations being drawn between those ailments and the consumption of meat in general, it’s not surprising so many shy away from meat.
The merge of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles only adds to the notion that meat consumption in any form is bad not just for health, but for society in general.
But before we draw that conclusion, let’s look at how meat came to be unhealthy.
Before we had farms and agriculture, our ancestors hunted on a regular basis. Meat was by far the most consumed food of choice.
It wouldn’t be surprising if a group hunted together for a single prey, chasing it down for days at a time.
With all that effort spent on hunting animals, none of the animal was wasted. Everything was eaten, especially the organs, where most of the nutrients lie.
But then we were introduced to the industrial revolution, where farming grew at an alarming rate and factories and automated machines made life a lot less work for the masses.
Along with this came processed meats where people can pick out the piece of the animal they want.
But nothing beats the combination of all the meat scraps from an animal, i.e. the hot dog.
Sausages, bacon, scrapple, and all other kinds of meats were being churned out like never before, and people were eating them like never before.
Needless to say, to keep these foods looking fresh, they’re processed with numerous chemicals (nitrate being the most common).
Later on, we have high fructose corn syrup, added sugars, and other additives to work on the taste buds of consumers so they keep coming back for more.
Oh, and that’s just the end product. Let’s see how the source of these meats, the animals, have changed.
Money > Health
When the industrial revolution started here in America, farming techniques such as caging the animals in facilities were also introduced.
This led to cattle being shoved inside farmhouses with barely any room to move. They’re given massive amounts of food to eat, and grains at that.
The fattening process is of utmost importance to the meat industry. More meat per animal = more money.
This alongside with the space they save by cramming these animals together.
Needless to say, the animals are not living in a healthy environment, they’re not eating healthy foods, and they’re not cared for properly.
Add all this into the fact that they’re pumped full of man-made hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals to make them fatter and their meat last longer and tastier, it doesn’t take a nutritionist to see that meat from these animals are practically poison.
I’m not going to get into the debate between meat consumption and vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. I respect each of these and believe everyone should have the right to choose whichever they want.
I like to focus however, on the fact that meats are NOT inherently bad for our health, but more so that man has made it that way.
A study back in 2010 that looked at the health of 1.2 million people who ate copious amounts of unprocessed red meat showed no association between the meat consumption and heart disease or diabetes.
Just look at some of the awesome nutrients we get from grass-fed beef:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (anti-inflammatory)
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid (lowers body fat)
- Vitamins A, B12, D3, K2, and E
- Creatine and Carnosine (Muscle growth and maintenance)
All those nutrients and the protein amount are in much greater quantity in grass-fed cows than grain-fed cows or cows stuck in crammy farmhouses with no room to move.
When we switch from conventional meat to organic pasture-raised, grass-fed meat, it’s like switching out the added hormones and antibiotics for natural nutrients and better taste.
After all, if meats were inherently bad for us, we wouldn’t be here since our ancestors would’ve died off a long time ago, right?
The second food choice on this list is Ghee, or better known as clarified butter. Butter in general is also included in this.
The main concern for consumption of butter and ghee in general is the high fat content. Basically, it’s pure fat.
We cook with it, put it on our toast, add it to others foods to make them taste better, etc. It’s something that a lot of us use on a regular basis, yet we’re advised to only use it sparingly.
That’s because of the same reason that meats are “bad”, it’s near the top of the food pyramid.
And why is it up there? Well, besides the part about butter being fat and the misconception that eating dietary fat causes fat gain, there are those same types of studies done on people on a diets eating lots of fats, including butter.
These studies typically show those eating high amounts of butter and other fats have an increased risk in heart disease, diabetes, elevated LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, fat gain, and other degradation to the subjects biomarkers compared to those that didn’t.
Remember the type of meats that were being studied for their effects on human health? The same thing is happening to studies on health effects of butter and fats.
Take butter derived from those sick and unhealthy cow, what do you get?
Instead, get your butter from grass-fed cows, and you get much more of these benefits without the heart disease and elevated triglycerides.
- Vitamins A, D, E, and K2
- Butyrade (Short Chain Fatty Acid)
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Again, using grass-fed butter and ghee rather than conventional store brand butter is like switching out all the chemicals for additional nutrients.
Just a bonus tip on Butyrade, this fatty acid is known to boost metabolism, reduce food intake, promotes the protection of our digestive system, and even has an anit-inflammatory effect on our body.
So don’t skip the butter or ghee next time, rather skip the store brand and make sure you’re having this awesome food in the absence of refined carbs.
The last and by far not the least on this list are eggs. This food is a nutritional powerhouse, packed full of vitamins and minerals that not only improves our health but keeps us going.
Again, the same principles applies to the type of eggs we get. As long as we’re going with free-range, organic eggs, we don’t have to worry about the stigma that comes with high egg consumption (same as the other two) like heart disease, elevated triglyceride levels, etc.
Here are just a few of the major nutrients we can all get from free range eggs:
- Vitamins A, B2, B5, B12
Learn more about the awesome health benefits of Selenium (including reduced cancer risk and elevated testosterone levels).
One other stigma that’s added to eggs more so than the other two foods I mentioned is cholesterol.
“Don’t eat the yolk!”, “I only eat the egg whites to avoid the excess cholesterol,” these statements and many others like it echo throughout those that believes dietary cholesterol equates to blood cholesterol.
The truth of the matter is, when the eggs are obtained from organic, free-range chickens, the “bad” LDL cholesterol levels actually lowers while the “good” HDL cholesterol rises.
The topic of cholesterol alone is worthy of another post, so I’ll leave it at that here. But there’s a whole other side to the HDL vs LDL debate. Beyond the different types of LDL cholesterol, lower LDL and higher HDL isn’t automatically a sign of good health, and vice versa.
Moreover, a review of 17 different studies on this subject concluded that egg consumption has no association with heart disease or stroke whatsoever.
Before we move on from this food, there is one important thing I want to make note of. This applies to those that still aren’t convinced that egg cholesterol isn’t bad for you and still plan on taking out the yolk and eating egg whites only.
First, most of the vitamins and minerals mentioned earlier are found in the yolk of the egg. We’d be missing out on most of that by skipping on the yolk.
The only thing the egg whites have over the yolk is protein, which we can get plenty of from other sources.
Second, and probably the more important point, is the absorption of biotin. Egg whites contain Avidin, a protein that binds to biotin, a vitamin B complex that aids in the synthesis of fatty acids and glucose. This reduces the amount of biotin we can absorb.
Most of us know biotin for its role in healthy, youthful looking hair and nails.
Some suggests the thorough cooking of egg whites to reduce the binding action of Avidin to biotin, making the biotin more available for us to absorb.
But why only reduce the amount of binding when we can almost eliminate it by including the egg yolk with the egg white (i.e. eat the whole egg the way nature had put it together)?
Proteins in the egg yolk actually keeps the Avidin in the egg whites from binding to biotin, acting as a natural countermeasure to this protein.
But when we separate out what nature has put together, we get problems like lower biotin levels and micronutrients and vitamins and minerals.
So next time we shop for eggs, make sure they’re from a trusted source. And don’t skip the yolk!
Including Them In Our Meals
For a lot of us, we might be eating these pretty regularly in our meals already. The sources however, might not be the type that gives us all the nutritional and health benefits we discussed in this article.
So first thing’s first, make sure we’re getting our meats, butter, and eggs from organic, free-range, pasture-raised, grass-fed sources.
Second, if we’re not eating these foods at all, then try to start incorporating them into our diet. Have a couple eggs cooked in butter. There are endless recipes with meats and animal organs.
If we’re following a vegetarian diet, butter and eggs are still on the list. I’m sure we’re already making good use of them. Just keep making sure the source is right.
If we’re on a vegan diet, or just choose not to eat anything derived from animals, then these foods are off-limits. I think veganism has its benefits but also its downsides, and one of the latter is the nutrients they’re missing out on with these foods.
Some of the nutrients here can be obtained by plant sources. But others like Vitamin B12 for example is practically non-existent in vegan foods except for a few fermented foods, which may not fit everyone’s palate.
However, if you’re not on any strict diet in particular. then give these foods a try! If you are already including these in your diet, make sure you can trust the source, have your fill of these foods, and good health to you!